Finland's government aims to phase out smoking completely within the next 30 years.
"This new law proposal says, according to paragraph one, that we will get rid of smoking once and for all in Finland," said Ilkka Oksala, the Finnish state secretary of health.
Regulating electronic cigarettes
A U.S. judge has taken the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to task for trying to regulate electronic cigarettes.
The FDA wants to prevent the import of the devices. Electronic cigarettes resemble a real cigarette, but consist of a stainless steel tube with a chamber that holds liquid nicotine. The device produces a heated mist of nicotine that smokers inhale.
"This case appears to be yet another example of FDA's aggressive efforts to regulate recreational tobacco products as drugs or devices," U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said Thursday in granting a preliminary injunction barring the FDA from regulating the cigarettes as a drug-device combination.
The FDA regulates regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. E-cigarettes contain nicotine but not tobacco. The FDA says it can control e-cigarettes since some of the products aim to treat nicotine withdrawal, which makes them a combination drug and device that fall under its jurisdiction.
Health Canada says although electronic smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, the products may pose risk such as nicotine poisoning and addiction.
Under the proposed legislation:
- By the spring, smokers in Finland will only be able to buy tobacco by asking for cigarettes from under the counter.
- Tobacco vending machines are also being phased out over the next three years.
- It will be illegal to smoke in a car carrying passengers under the age of 18.
Details of the long-term policy have not been spelled out.
The policy, which is expected to easily pass through parliament, has raised the ire of the tobacco industry.
"People are well aware of the fact that this is a harmful product," said Anne Edwards, a spokesperson for tobacco giant Philip Morris International. "I think at the end of the day, if they know that, then I think the decision is theirs to make."
The company has complained to the Finnish government and is investigating its legal options.
About one in five Finns smoke. On the streets of Helsinki, some smokers said they supported the government's approach, calling smoking a "stupid habit," and that they don't want children to pick up.
Anti-smoking laws vary across Europe. In March 2004, Ireland became the first country to institute a total ban on smoking in all workplaces, including the country's more than 10,000 pubs.
Anti-smoking laws in France and Germany have met fierce opposition.